Vehicle thefts on the rise, police say

    UCSD Police say on-campus vehicle thefts have risen significantly, citing the 21 car thefts since October 2002, while only 16 cars were stolen in the previous nine months. The increase on campus corresponds to a countywide increase, officials say.

    “”Auto theft is common to every police jurisdiction,”” said detective Douglas O’Dell. “”UCSD is no different.””

    Of all the parking lots on campus, the East and Regents lots seem to be the easiest targets due to their remote position east of Interstate 5 and their easy access from local streets. Since the beginning of the 2002-03 school year, nine vehicles have been taken from the eastern lots.

    “”Larger lots lend themselves well to theft,”” O’Dell said. “”When you have more than 3,500 spaces concentrated in an area located away from daily traffic, it makes it easier for thieves to hide and commit the crime.””

    UCSD covers roughly 12,000 acres, with 15,000 parking spaces in more than 80 parking lots. There are 27 sworn officers, 16 resident security officers and 35 community service officers on patrol in a 24-hour period.

    “”It’s a daunting task,”” O’Dell said. “”However, the police department is taking steps to address the immediate problem.””

    Although they could not elaborate on their plans, campus police are advising car owners to personally take steps to deter thieves. One method is what law enforcement calls “”hardening the target.”” This includes making sure to roll up all windows and lock all doors. Also, the use of alarm systems and kill switches can help prevent theft.

    “”The goal is to make it harder for a thief to steal your vehicle,”” O’Dell said. “”If you make it so difficult and force the individual to take more time, the thief will move on to another target. You may have a damaged car, but at least you’ll still have a car.””

    Products such as the Club can also serve as effective deterrents, O’Dell said.

    “”When my car was broken into, I had the Club on,”” said sophomore Heidi Peterson, whose Honda Civic was vandalized in November 2002 at East Parking.

    “”I locked my doors and rolled up my windows, but they found some way in,”” Peterson said. “”The Club probably saved my car from being stolen.””

    Police are also asking students and faculty to be aware of their surroundings when entering a parking lot and to report any suspicious people or events.

    “”If you see something suspicious, report it immediately,”” O’Dell said. “”We’d much rather go out and check on something that ends up to be nothing than to go out and find that the crime had already occurred.””

    At this time, the police department is not excluding anyone as a potential suspect. They believe the thieves can be anyone, even students.

    “”We have arrested students in the past on related charges,”” O’Dell said. “”I would not be surprised to find students behind some of these thefts.””

    If your car is stolen, the police are advising the public to immediately report it by calling (858) 534-HELP or by finding a call box, which are usually located within the vicinity of the parking lot, and report the crime. Police recommend students to have information about their vehicles available.

    This information will be entered into a nationwide database that will alert officers of the status of any vehicle.

    “”The sooner you report the incident, the less likely the vehicle will be outside the immediate area and the more likely you will get it back,”” O’Dell said.

    Questions concerning auto theft and types of anti-theft devices can be answered by calling the UCSD Police Department’s Crime Prevention Office at (858) 534-3644.

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